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Iran’s sole nuclear power plant undergoes emergency shutdown

Official from state electric energy company says stoppage will last 3-4 days, does not provide reason

The Bushehr nuclear power plant outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour, File)
The Bushehr nuclear power plant outside the southern city of Bushehr, Iran. (AP Photo/Mehr News Agency, Majid Asgaripour, File)

The Times of Israel liveblogged Sunday’s events as they happened.

Liberman: If we pass budget, we’ll last 4.5 years

At the cabinet meeting, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said the new government has “two important objectives: one, to stabilize the coalition; two, to approve a budget. If we pass that, we’ll definitely last four and a half years,” he said.

Avigdor Liberman arrives to a group photo of the newly sworn in Israeli government at the president’s residence in Jerusalem on June 14, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/FLASH90)

Bennett: Raisi’s election a sign for world powers to ‘wake up’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett opened his first cabinet meeting since his new coalition government was sworn in with a condemnation of the new Iranian president. He said Iran’s presidential election was a sign for world powers to “wake up” before returning to a nuclear agreement with Tehran.

Iran’s hardline judiciary chief, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected Saturday with 62% of the vote amid a historically low voter turnout. He was sanctioned by the US in part over his involvement in the mass execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988, at the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Raisi has not commented specifically on the event.

Bennett said at the meeting in Jerusalem that “of all the people that [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei could have chosen, he chose the hangman of Tehran, the man infamous among Iranians and across the world for leading the death committees that executed thousands of innocent Iranian citizens throughout the years.”

Cabinet approves extending IDF chief’s term for a fourth year

During its meeting today, the cabinet approved extending the term of IDF chief of staff Aviv Kohavi for an additional, fourth year.

Kohavi will serve until January 2023.

IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Aviv Kohavi (C) at the scene of a shooting attack in the Tapuah Junction, south of the West Bank city of Nablus, on May 3, 2021. (Sraya Diamant/Flash90

Former UK speaker Bercow denounces Johnson and defects to Labour

The colorful former speaker of Britain’s House of Commons John Bercow says he has left the Conservatives to join the opposition Labour Party, saying the country is “sick of lies” under Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In an interview with the Observer newspaper, the Jewish former MP says the Conservative Party under Johnson is “reactionary, populist, nationalistic and sometimes even xenophobic.”

Speaker of Britain’s House of Commons John Bercow makes a statement in the House of Commons in London on whether Government can hold a debate and vote on the Brexit deal with Europe, October 21, 2019. (House of Commons via AP)

Bercow, who stepped down as speaker in October 2019 after 10 years, says he joined the Labour Party a few weeks ago because he shares its values.

“I am motivated by support for equality, social justice and internationalism. That is the Labour brand,” he tells the Observer. “The conclusion I have reached is that this government needs to be replaced. The reality is that the Labour Party is the only vehicle that can achieve that objective. There is no other credible option.”

Deputy head of Northern Branch of Islamic Movement released under restrictions

A court in Nazareth orders the release of Sheikh Kamal al-Khatib, the deputy head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.

Al-Khatib was arrested last month on suspicion of inciting to violence at the height of Israel’s conflict with Gaza, which sparked internal Arab-Jewish unrest.

He is released under restrictive conditions and is barred from accessing the internet, making speeches or giving interviews for 45 days. He is also barred from gatherings of more than 45 people.

Iran’s nuclear envoy: We’re closer to deal than ever, but US must make decisions

Negotiators trying to save the Iran nuclear deal meet today to take stock at the end of the latest round of talks, and a day after an ultraconservative won the presidential election in the Islamic Republic.

The meeting is part of their regular discussions since early April, aimed at bringing the US back to the 2015 landmark agreement and Iran back into compliance with curbs on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Negotiators have said the presidential election is not expected to influence the talks though Raisi’s views are widely seen as a break from the more moderate stances of former president Hassan Rouhani.

Iran’s envoy, Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi, says that after the day’s meeting in Vienna negotiators will take a break to return to their capitals, ending the sixth round of talks.

Political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Abbas Araghchi, enters the ‘Grand Hotel Wien’ where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, May 19, 2021. (AP Photo/Lisa Leutner)

“We are now closer to an agreement than ever. But it is not an easy task to close the distance currently between us and an agreement,” he tells Iran’s national television. “At this point, it is clear which fields, which actions are possible and which are not. Therefore, it is time for all sides, especially our counterparts, to be able to make their final decision.”

He adds he cannot say how many days the latest break will last.

He also says that “bridging the gaps requires decisions that mainly [the US] has to take. I hope in the next round we will travel this short distance — although it is a difficult one.”

Jordan’s unprecedented palace drama moves to the courtroom

Jordan’s version of a trial of the century gets under way this week when a relative of King Abdullah II and a former chief of the royal court are ushered into the defendants’ cage at the state security court to face charges of sedition and incitement.

They are accused of conspiring with a senior royal — Prince Hamzah, a half-brother of the king — to foment unrest against the monarch while soliciting foreign help.

The palace drama erupted into the open in early April, when Hamzah was placed under house arrest. It has since broken taboos in Jordan and sent jitters through foreign capitals, with Western powers rallying behind Abdullah, an indispensable ally in an unstable region.

The case exposed rivalries in Jordan’s traditionally discreet Hashemite dynasty and spawned unprecedented public criticism of the monarch. The defendants are the most senior establishment figures to appear before the security court, which typically goes after drug offenders or suspected militants.

PA say it wants to renegotiate terms of vaccine deal with Israel, Pfizer

The Palestinian Authority Health Ministry says it will seek to renegotiate the terms of a recent deal between the PA, Pfizer and the Israeli Health Ministry which would have seen over one million doses of Pfizer vaccines transferred from Israel to the PA.

Israel announced the planned transfer on Friday and sent an initial shipment of 100,000 Pfizer vaccines to Ramallah. Under the terms of the deal, Israel would swap its own soon-to-expire vaccines for the PA’s own shipment of fresh Pfizer vaccines, which were scheduled to arrive later in 2021.

Ramallah has been slow to roll out its coronavirus vaccine response, and less than one-fifth of West Bank Palestinians are vaccinated. But the PA canceled the deal on Friday night, claiming that the vaccines did not meet their safety standards as they were too close to expiring.

A Palestinian member of a health ministry mobile unit vaccinates an elderly Palestinian against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in the village of Dura near Hebron in the West Bank, on June 9, 2021. (Photo by HAZEM BADER / AFP)

Israel says that the vaccines are “identical in every way to the vaccines currently being given to citizens of  Israel.”

In a statement, the PA Health Ministry announces that it will return 90,000 vaccine doses to Israel, saying that they are set to expire on June 30. A spokesperson for the PA Health Ministry did not respond to a request for comment as to what would be done with the remaining 10,000 vaccines.

Taliban say ‘Islamic system’ only way to Afghan peace, women’s rights

The Taliban says it  remains committed to peace talks but insist a “genuine Islamic system” in Afghanistan is the only way to end the war and ensure rights — including for women.

Talks between the militants and the Afghan government have been deadlocked for months and violence has surged across the country since May when the US military began its final withdrawal.

Mullah Baradar, the Taliban group’s top political leader, speaks before signing a peace agreement between Taliban and US officials in Doha, Qatar, February 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Hussein Sayed)

Fears are also growing that if the Taliban returns to power it will reimpose its harsh version of Islamic law, under which girls were banned from school and women accused of crimes such as adultery were stoned to death in stadiums.

Despite the rise in violence, Taliban co-founder and deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar says that the group is committed to the peace talks.

“Our very participation in the negotiations… indicates openly that we believe in resolving issues through understanding,” Baradar says in a statement. He says the only way to end the conflict in Afghanistan is to establish an Islamic system after the departure of all foreign forces.

Construction worker killed, another briefly trapped as elevator collapses in Tel Aviv

A construction worker aged around 30 has been killed in Tel Aviv after an elevator collapsed at a construction site.

Medics who reached the scene were unable to resuscitate the man after he fell.

A second man was briefly trapped in the elevator, as it hung precipitously at a significant height. He was rescued and taken to hospital with mild injuries.

‘Dawn of new era’: Iran’s ultraconservatives hail Raisi win

Iran’s ultraconservatives hail the election victory of their candidate Ebrahim Raisi.

“The Dawn of a New Era,” reads the jubilant front-page headline of the conservative Resalat daily, welcoming the 62 percent win by Raisi, the head of Iran’s judiciary.

Turnout reached 48.8 percent, a record low for a presidential poll since Iran’s 1979 revolution ousted the US-backed monarchy.

Ebrahim Raisi, points during a campaign rally in Eslamshahr, southwest of Tehran, Iran, June 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi, File)

The ultraconservative Kayhan daily argues the voter participation was “epic” considering the economic crisis, pandemic and the “enemy’s propaganda,” referring to boycott calls from Iranian opposition groups abroad.

Resalat welcomes the change from the Rouhani administration which it says has been dogged by political infighting and occupied with “fruitless domestic and foreign challenges.”

2-year-old girl dies in southern Israel after being left in car for hours

A 2-year-old girl died in the town of Kuseife in southern Israel after she was left in a car for hours in the heat.

The girl was reportedly left in the car at 8 a.m. for some six hours. Her father brought her to a local clinic at around 2:30 p.m. in critical condition, but she could not be saved.

TV: Short of majority, coalition likely to delay vote on family reunification

The coalition is likely to delay a planned vote tomorrow on the contentious Palestinian family reunification law, as it fears an embarrassing failure to pass the law, Channel 12 reports.

The 2003 law bars granting citizenship to Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens. The new government is internally divided over the issue, with Minister of Regional Cooperation Issawi Frej of Meretz, Labor’s Ibtisam Mara’ana, and the Arab Ra’am party opposing the measure.

Though right-wing opposition parties support the law, they have refused to step in to vote in favor, in hopes of undermining the new government.

A look back at Raisi’s visit to the Lebanon-Israel border

Three years ago, Iran’s President-elect Ebrahim Raisi toured Lebanon’s border with Israel and spoke with top Hezbollah officials about the frontier with the Jewish state.

“Soon we will witness the liberation of Jerusalem,” he said at the time.

Here is a photo from that visit.

Amateur cyclist, an immigrant from Ukraine, wins national championship

Israel’s new national cycling champion is a 25-year-old immigrant dancer and barista, Vlad Logionov.

Logionov immigrated from Ukraine some three years ago and is not a professional cycler. He surprised many at the championship at Beit Govrin on Saturday, but his trainer at the 500 Watt cycling club, Ilan Ulman, told the Shvoong sports site that his win was “no accident.”

Ulman said Logionov was intensely dedicated to the training and brought his technique and training mentality from the world of dance to the race.

“He’s a fantastic athlete, as a dancer and as a rider,” Ulman said.

Logionov tells Channel 12 he is considering taking up cycling professionally, and hopes to get offers following his victory.

Leah Goldin confronts Gantz at memorial ceremony for victims of 2014 war

The prime minister and defense minister are taking part in a memorial ceremony for the victims of the 2014 Gaza war.

Outside the ceremony, the family of soldier Hadar Goldin, whose body has been held by Hamas since the conflict, holds a protest calling on the government to do more to ensure his return.

Hamas is holding the bodies of Goldin and another soldier, Oron Shaul. It is also holding two live Israelis who entered the Strip of their own accord — Avraham Avera Mengistu and Hisham a-Sayed.

Meeting mother Leah Goldin, Gantz says, “I hope one day we’ll sort it out.” She answers: “No, not one day, now.” He says: “We are doing everything we can and we’ll continue to do so.”

Bennett in a message to Hamas: ‘Our patience has run out’

Prime Minister Bennett, speaking at a memorial ceremony for the victims of 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza, sends a message to Hamas: “Our enemies will know the rules: We will not suffer violence and a slow drip [of rockets]. Our patience has run out.”

He adds: “The residents of the Gaza periphery are not second-class citizens. Those who live in Sderot, Ashkelon and Kfar Aza deserve to live in peace and security.”

Egypt: Suez Canal ship case adjourned for settlement talks

An Egyptian court adjourns until July 4 the case of a hulking cargo vessel that blocked the Suez Canal for nearly a week earlier this year.

The decision comes after both legal teams of the Suez Canal and the vessel’s owners asked for more time for negotiations that aim at resolving their financial dispute.

The dispute centers on the compensation amount the Suez Canal Authority is claiming for the salvage of the vessel Ever Given, which ran aground in March, blocking the crucial waterway for six days.

This satellite image from Maxar Technologies shows the cargo ship MV Ever Given stuck in the Suez Canal near Suez, Egypt, March 28, 2021. (©Maxar Technologies via AP)

The money would cover the salvage operation, costs of stalled canal traffic, and lost transit fees for the week the Ever Given blocked the canal.

At first, the Suez Canal Authority demanded $916 million in compensation, which was later lowered to $550 million. The two sides have traded blame for the vessel’s grounding.

Bennett heckled by bereaved father for his support for 2014 Gaza ground op

As Bennett went up to the podium earlier to speak at the memorial event for the 2014 war, one fallen soldier’s father verbally assailed him for his support of the ground operation that led to numerous soldier deaths during the operation.

Bennett was a member of the security cabinet at the time.

Noting that the recent operation was conducted without a ground incursion, the man cried out: “So we learned it at the expense of Protective Edge? You were one of those who called the prime minister [Netanyahu] to press to enter Gaza. What happened?! What happened?!”

Court gives Shasha-Biton 21 days to decide on Israel Prize for Oded Goldreich

The High Court of Justice tells Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton she has 21 days to decide whether to give the Israel Prize to a professor accused of backing boycotts against Israel.

Her predecessor Yoav Gallant decided just before leaving office not to grant the prestigious prize to Oded Goldreich, a professor of computer science at Israel’s Weizmann Institute.

Goldreich was selected by the prize committee for his work on computational complexity theory, but Gallant blocked him, alleging he backs the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Goldreich has denied backing BDS but said he objects to West Bank settlements.

Oded Goldreich (CC BY-SA 3.0)/Wikipedia)

Iran’s supreme leader still arbiter of nuclear deal: US advisor

The US national security advisor says that even with the election of an ultra-right president in Iran, the “ultimate decision” on recommitting to the 2015 nuclear deal lies with that country’s supreme leader.

“Whether the president is Person A or Person B is less relevant than whether their system is prepared to make commitments to restrain their nuclear program,” Jake Sullivan says on ABC’s “This Week.”

“The ultimate decision for whether or not to go back into the deal,” Sullivan says, “lies with Iran’s supreme leader.”

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during a video conference with a group of university students, in Tehran, Iran, May 11, 2021. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP)

Three countries contact Israel about vaccines rejected by PA — report

Three countries have contacted Israel to inquire about the possibility of obtaining vaccines rejected by the Palestinians in recent days, if Ramallah indeed decides it doesn’t want them, Haaretz reports.

Citing an unnamed diplomatic source, the paper says Israel is in touch with the countries about doses set to expire in July.

Empty vials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine lie in a box during a vaccine campaign at the Vaccine Village in Ebersberg near Munich, Germany, May 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)

PA health minister: We’ll seek Israeli vaccines that don’t expire until July

The Palestinian Authority will seek to receive Israeli vaccines from Pfizer which do not expire until the end of July, Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai al-Kaila tells the PA’s official WAFA news agency.

Israel announced a plan to send over one million coronavirus vaccine doses to the Palestinians on Friday and sent an initial shipment of 100,000 vaccines to Ramallah. Under the terms of the deal, Israel was handing over its soon-to-expire vaccines in exchange for the PA’s shipment of fresh Pfizer vaccines, which are scheduled to arrive later in 2021.

But the PA canceled the deal, saying the vaccines were too close to their expiration date; the doses were set to expire at the end of June.

Palestinian Authority Health Minister Mai al-Kaila (WAFA)

Al-Kaila says an Israeli delay in accepting Ramallah’s conditions led to the PA’s decision to cancel the deal. Al-Kaila says the deal was originally concluded in May, with the notion that the vaccines would arrive at the end of the month.

“After the Israeli side stalled and the delivery of the vaccines was delayed until the day before yesterday, their expiry date is near, so we refused to accept them and returned them to the Israeli side,” al-Kaila says.

Per al-Kaila, Israel had sought to set two conditions for the transfer of vaccines: first, that no doses would go to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by the Hamas terror group. Second, that the loan agreements would not designate the Palestinian Authority as “the State of Palestine,” as the body often refers to itself in official documents.

According to al-Kaila, Ramallah has a series of agreements with the Pfizer pharmaceutical company to receive tranches of doses between now and the end of the year: 1,795,000 between July and September and 2 million between October and December.

But those shipments are not expected to arrive on time, al-Kaila says, due to “global demand for the vaccine.”

Health Ministry cancels quarantine for vaccinated attendees at Beit She’an show

The Health Ministry has canceled quarantine for vaccinated and recovered individuals who were at a dance performance with a confirmed coronavirus carrier.

The ministry had initially sent hundreds at the show to isolate, for fear the patient was sick with the highly transmissible Delta variant, but now only recommends those present take a virus test.

Those who came into direct contact with the individual who are neither vaccinated nor recovered will need to quarantine.

Diplomats: Progress made in Vienna at Iran nuclear talks

Top diplomats say further progress has been made at talks between Iran and global powers to try to restore a landmark 2015 agreement to contain Iranian nuclear development that was abandoned by the Trump administration. They say it is now up to the governments involved in the negotiations to make political decisions.

Some diplomats express concern that Iran’s election of Ebrahim Raisi as president could complicate a possible return to the nuclear agreement.

Enrique Mora, the European Union official who chaired the final meeting of the sixth round of talks between Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain, and Iran, tells reporters that “we are closer to a deal, but we are not still there.”

“We have made progress on a number of technical issues,” Mora added. ”We have now more clarity on technical documents — all of them quite complex — and that clarity allows us to have also a great idea of what the political problems are.”

Iran’s governor to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Kazem Gharib Abadi, political deputy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iran, Abbas Araghchi, and deputy secretary general and political director of the European External Action Service (EEAS), Enrique Mora, leave the Grand Hotel Vienna, where closed-door nuclear talks take place in Vienna, Austria, June 2, 2021. (AP/Lisa Leutner)

Lapid to travel to UAE in first trip abroad as foreign minister — report

In his first trip abroad as foreign minister, Yair Lapid will soon travel to the United Arab Emirates, Walla news reports.

Lapid will be the first Israeli minister to visit the UAE since the signing of the normalization accords between the countries.

The report says it is not yet clear whether Lapid will meet the UAE’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan

Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid arrives at the new government’s first weekly cabinet meeting, in Jerusalem on June 20, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAN / AFP)

Health expert: Delta variant ‘a game changer’; some mask-wearing must return

The Delta variant of the coronavirus is “a game-changer” that will necessitate recalculations as to how to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, Gabi Barbash, a former director-general of the Health Ministry, tells Channel 12.

Barbash says the variant “is taking control the world over… We’re going to have to live with it. It’s far more contagious… It also hits youths and children.”

He says mask-wearing will have to return in certain locations, including at Ben Gurion Airport, to prevent the variant from spreading.

“Schools where there are unvaccinated children will have to resume wearing masks — we’ve got to go backwards.”

Currently, it is not known to what degree the Pfizer vaccine used in Israel protects from the variant. But most of the country’s children are unvaccinated and could therefore be at risk.

Iran’s sole nuclear power plant undergoes emergency shutdown

Iran’s sole nuclear power plant has undergone a temporary emergency shutdown, state TV reports.

An official from the state electric energy company, Gholamali Rakhshanimehr, says on a talk show that the Bushehr plant shutdown began on Saturday and will last “three to four days.”

He says that power outages could result. He does not elaborate, but this is the first time Iran has reported an emergency shutdown of the plant, located in the southern port city of Bushehr. It went online in 2011 with help from Russia.

In March, nuclear official Mahmoud Jafari said the plant could stop working since Iran could not procure parts and equipment for it from Russia, due to banking sanctions imposed by the US in 2018.

BBC: Israel to start easing restrictions on Gaza Monday morning

Israel is planning to start easing restrictions on the Gaza Strip starting tomorrow morning, the BBC’s Tom Batement reports.

Citing a source with knowledge of ceasefire talks, Bateman says “the export of fish, vegetables, and textiles will resume, as will post services in and out of Gaza.”

Edelstein privately says Netanyahu ‘made every mistake possible’ — report

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